Will 49ers thrive despite injuries like 2019, or buckle like they did in 2020?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The good news for the banged-up San Francisco 49ers is the same as the bad: They've been through all of this before.

The Niners left Bank of America Stadium on Sunday with a convincing 37-15 win against the Carolina Panthers to open the young season 3-2 and claim first place in the NFC West. It was the type of dominant victory that would normally leave a locker room with plenty to smile about.

But that wasn't the case on Sunday because the Niners watched as four key contributors -- cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, defensive end Nick Bosa, safety Jimmie Ward and kicker Robbie Gould -- departed with injuries of varying severity. It was the latest in a spate of injuries this young season that has seen the Niners lose significant contributors such as quarterback Trey Lance (ankle), left tackle Trent Williams (ankle), defensive linemen Arik Armstead (foot, ankle) and Javon Kinlaw (knee), running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (knee), among others, for extended periods.

The Niners confirmed Monday that Moseley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Bosa is battling a tight groin while Ward is scheduled to have surgery on his broken left hand and Gould is dealing with a bruised left knee. The Niners are monitoring each injury with the expectation that everyone but Moseley will return at some point relatively soon.

"It's tough," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "It's football, so you've got to take it with a grain of salt, but everyone in there, that's a tight locker room and it sucks whenever we lose a guy like that ... We've got to keep going and the train ain't stopping."

Nobody knows that better than the Niners, who have suffered more than their fair share of injuries in recent seasons.

In 2019 and 2021, the 49ers proved capable of overcoming their injury woes, leaning into their depth to keep winning. Both seasons ended with deep playoff runs, as the Niners won the NFC championship to advance to Super Bowl LIV in 2019 and advanced to the NFC title game in 2021.

In 2018 and 2020, there wasn't enough depth on the roster (or the planet) to help San Francisco move past the injury issues that plagued them. Those seasons ended in a combined 10-22 record.

Which means the question that will go the furthest in determining San Francisco's 2022 season is this: which path will it take as it deals with another lengthy list of injuries?

"We know that we've been in those situations and we’ve fought our way out of it," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "So, I feel like maybe it just gives you a little bit of sense of comfort of knowing we've done it before and we can come out of it again."

If there's any solace to be taken in the Niners' lengthy list of injuries it's that many of their ailments aren't considered season-ending. Lance will not return because of his broken right ankle and Moseley will miss the rest of the season too. Otherwise, the Niners expect to get the rest of their key players back at some point.

Juszczyk recalls a similar situation in 2019 when he, tight end George Kittle and tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey were among a large group of players who were sidelined but returned in time to bolster the roster just before a difficult three-game stretch against the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints.

"I think there's definitely something to that," Juszczyk said. "I think there's a lot to getting starters back middle of the year, end of the year and fresh. Granted, they're coming off injuries, which isn't the best thing. But if we can still weather the storm and win games now and get them back fresh ready to roll, I think that can really bode well toward the end of the season because it's a really long year. It's basically impossible for everybody to play the season healthy."

The Niners already have had to dig deep into their depth at multiple positions, meaning they can't afford many more losses. Reinforcements should be on the way relatively soon, though probably not in larger numbers for at least another couple of weeks. Which means it's up to the remaining healthy Niners to hold the fort to ensure that when their injured teammates get back, they still have plenty to play for.

"You don't want to be familiar with dealing with big losses," linebacker Fred Warner said. "As much as it is easy to say next man up, it is not like we aren't thinking about those guys, you know? And missing them. But we are going to find a way to get through it and continue to play at a high level."